Wine Guys

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Pinot grigio or pinot gris? If you’re confused between the two, you are not alone.  The grapes are the same — much like syrah and shiraz — but represent a difference in style more than anything else.  Alsace producers use pinot gris for their rich and spicy wines with tropical fruit flavors. Northern Italy producers use the name pinot grigio for their lighter and citrus-flavored wines that generally have fresher acidity.

Italian pinot grigio has become very popular and can be easily found on many restaurant wine lists. But the quality varies dramatically. The best and richer Italian pinot grigios come from the Friuli region of northern Italy; those from Alto Adige are very aromatic. Those from Veneto are most common, but many of these bulk wines, made by cooperatives from high-yielding vineyards, are pedestrian and often sweet.

Pinot grigio and pinot blanc — a mutant of the pinot noir grape — are used interchangeably in the United States. However, pinot gris is preferred in the wine growing regions of the Northwest. Frankly, there are some outstanding pinot gris being made on the West Coast that we prefer over Italian pinot grigio. Otherwise, our preference is for the rich, spicy pinot gris from Alsace. Which style you prefer is up to you, but it would be fun to taste the difference.

Wine snobs are quick to dismiss pinot grigio as a respectable wine because they don’t find it interesting enough to suit their palates and because it is made in bulk. But that hasn’t stopped consumers from buying it — the category has grown 10 percent over the last year and is now the fifth most popular wine. Not only is the wine a great summer sipper, it pairs nicely with Asian dishes and spicy foods that are common on the grill.

Tony Terlato’s famous Santa Margherita put pinot grigio on the map for most people, but  demand pushed up prices. Trust us, you can find an equally good pinot grigio for less than $22.

Here are several we recently discovered:

Hugel Pinot Gris Tradition 2011 ($20). This is a classic example of a rich, solid pinot gris made in a pure Alsace style. Still dry, it has a round mouthfeel and copious flavors. It can even be aged.

Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2011 ($22). We love the generous, ripe pear aromas and tropical fruit flavors of this lush, complex pinot gris from one of the best producers in Alsace. Anyone who wants to take their pinot grigio to another level should try this.

McManis Family Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2012 ($10).  This is quite a deal at this price. From grapes grown in vineyards near Lodi, the wine has a crisp mouthfeel and generous pit-fruit flavors.

Etude Carneros Pinot Gris 2012 ($24).  Typical of this reputable producer, the pinot gris has nice complexity and opulent stone-fruit aromas. Peach and apple flavors abound with hints of lemon and mineral. Etude takes pinot gris to a whole new level with this Alsace-like gem.

J Pinot Gris 2012 ($15).  We enjoyed this pinot gris from J’s estate vineyards. Apricot aromas lead to pineapple and lemon flavors with a dash of minerality and a crisp finish.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Grigio 2012 ($8). Peach and citrus notes dominate this simple but delicious, slightly sweet wine blended with 22 percent other white grape varieties.

Da Vinci delle Venzie IGT Pinot Grigio 2012 ($15). Da Vinci presence has grown in this country because of its reasonably priced chianti that can be found on a lot of restaurant wine lists. Similarly, it’s pinot grigio is a decent value.  Blended with some chardonnay grapes, it has nice complexity to match food.  Tropical fruit, apple and citrus highlight the palate.

Pepi Pinot Grigio 2012 ($10). Pepi makes great values in wine. This pinot grigio is a no-brainer for those of you who prefer this grape variety to chardonnay. Lively citrus and pear notes.

Giocato Pinot Grigio 2012 ($13). Simple but delicious pinot grigio with classic apple and tropical fruit flavors and fresh acidity.

Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio ($10). Very fragrant with crisp acidity, round stone fruit flavors and hints of sage.

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio 2012 ($10). Easy to find, this steady pinot grigio has easy citrus aromas and tropical fruit flavors.


1 Comment for “Wine Guys”

  1. Dear Tom & Patrick,

    Thank you for your flavorful and respectable review on our 2012 J Vineyards Pinot Gris, we appreciate and are pleased by your recommendation. Enjoy your summer sipper’s guys.


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